Legal watchdog: Teachers union appears to not pay taxes on political spending

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For four years, leaders of the American Federation of Teachers union toured the country doing political rallies for Democrats.

Among the dozens of political events they attended from 2016 through 2020 included Hillary Clinton rallies, a get-out-the-vote event, and a Labor Day rally.

It’s the type of campaigning many unions do in support of Democratic issues.

However, a non-profit public interest law firm claims that from 2018 through 2020, AFT spent more than $3 million in political expenditures and didn’t declare it on the proper disclosure reports.

Landmark Legal Foundation states that AFT is obligated to report the expenditures and pay taxes on them.

Landmark Legal Foundation reviewed AFT’s reporting and then filed a complaint with the IRS in 2022 asking for an investigation of AFT’s political expenditures. In October, AFT followed with a supplemental filing with the IRS.

AFT did not respond to an email from The Center Square seeking comment.

The IRS stated in an email to The Center Square it could not comment on specific organizations due to privacy laws.

Landmark Legal Foundation stated that AFT responded to the complaint and said they are properly reporting their political spending via its Political Action Committee, or PAC.

But Landmark Legal Foundation stated there are multiple political expenditures itemized on AFT’s disclosure reports but not reported on the PAC’s disclosure statements.

Since they aren’t part of the PAC’s spending, Landmark Legal Foundation stated the political spending would be made from the union’s general treasury funds, which come from the collection of union dues.

Landmark Legal Foundation stated that since the political spending wasn’t on PAC reports, the union should report that political spending on a report known as a Form 990, which goes to the IRS.

AFT reported having $203 million in total revenue in 2020. On the Form 990 that is filed with the federal government, the question is asked, “Did the organization engage in direct or indirect political campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office? If ‘Yes,’ complete Schedule C, Part I.” For the 2020 calendar year, AFT checked “No.”

Michael O’Neill, vice president of legal affairs at Landmark Legal Foundation, said that is problematic since the spending wasn’t listed with the PAC.

“They are saying not one cent of the over $200 million they take in annually is used for indirect or direct political activity,” O’Neill said.

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